Chernivtsi: A triumph of Yiddish and Jewish culture

The anniversary conference on the Yiddish language and the Week of Jewish Culture were held in Chernivtsi, the capital of Bukovyna, with great success.

The conference on the Yiddish language, dedicated to the 110th anniversary of the first such conference in 1908, once again filled Chernivtsi with the language and culture of the Jewish people. This city hosted numerous events from 5-12 August 2018 and became the capital of Jewish life in Ukraine.

The academic level of the gathering, officially called the International Commemorative Conference of Yiddish Language and Culture, was outstanding as the world's greatest Yiddish scholars and specialists from the U.S., Canada, Israel, Denmark, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, France, Austria, Poland, Moldova, and Ukraine gathered in Chernivtsi.

Doctoral student Haya R. Nov (U.S.), Prof. Wolf Moskovich (Israel), and Dr. Dovid Katz (Lithuania) on the sidelines of the conference.

The conference received statements of welcome from the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s culture minister Yevhen Nyshchuk, the head of the Jewish Confederation of Ukraine Borys Lozhkin, and the president of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder. City and regional leaders, as well as the rector of the local university, congratulated the participants of this world-class academic event.

This was the first time a conference of such an advanced level was held with the support of one its main sponsors - the Canadian-based initiative Ukrainian Jewish Encounter. Other conference sponsors included the World Jewish Congress, the VAAD of Ukraine and other organizations.

Mykola Knyazhytsky, chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Culture and Spirituality and a member of the Ukraine-Israel parliamentary group, emphasized at the opening of the conference: "The culture created in the Yiddish language is a tradition in both Jewish and our Ukrainian culture. Thus, it is all the more important for us to revive the Yiddish language, the language of Ukrainian Jews, which is now practically almost not used but is nonetheless a tremendous part of culture and of Jewish and Ukrainian life. Everything that is happening here is extremely beneficial for contemporary Ukraine because it illustrates how modern Ukraine is profoundly tolerant and spiritual, a country that respects all Ukrainians no matter what their ethnicity."

The conference and events of the Week of Jewish Culture took place in the most prestigious venues of Chernivtsi, including the Marble and Red Halls of the University (the residence of the Metropolitan in the 19th Century), the city’s art museum, the Paul Celan Literaturzentrum, the Library of the University, and the Philharmonic.

UJE Board Member Prof. Wolf Moskovich, who grew up in Chernivtsi, was one of the conference organizers and presenter of a paper on new tendencies in modern Yiddish lexicography. UJE Co-Director Alti Rodal, also a Chernivtsi native, spoke about the late Yosef Burg, who was often called the city’s last Yiddish writer. Also in attendance was UJE Board Member Berel Rodal, who greeted conference attendees on behalf of the organization and its chairman, James C. Temerty.

The organizing committee led by Yosyf Zissels, head of Ukraine’s VAAD, accomplished a great task. Logistics and the preparation of all events were at the highest level and noted with gratitude by all the academics and guests from different countries of the world.

Posters in Yiddish, Ukrainian, and English were placed all over the city and its Ukrainian residents participated in all cultural events with great interest.

There was a real feeling that this week Chernivtsi fully lived its Jewish heritage. The August triumph in Chernivtsi was expressed in a unique atmosphere that was a synthesis of academic dialogue and Ukrainian-Jewish cultural interaction.

UJE will be filing other reports from the symposium. Meanwhile videos and other conference-related materials are available on Facebook.

Videos from the conference:

UJE Board Member Dr. Wolf Moskovich at the opening of the International Commemorative Conference of Yiddish Language and Culture, Chernivtsi, 6 August 2018. (in Yiddish and English)

UJE Board Member Berel Rodal at the opening of the International Commemorative Conference of Yiddish Language and Culture, Chernivtsi, 6 August 2018. (in English)

Lecture: UJE Board Member Dr. Wolf Moskovich on "New Tendencies in Modern Yiddish Lexicography", International Commemorative Conference of Yiddish Language and Culture, Chernivtsi, 6 August 2018. (in English)

Lecture: UJE Co-Director Alti Rodal, “Excerpts from a 2001 Interview with Yosef Burg”, "International Commemorative Conference of Yiddish Language and Culture, Chernivtsi, 7 August 2018. (in English and Yiddish)


Texts and photos: Shimon Briman (Israel).
Edited by Peter Bejger.